Are you so busy making sure that everyone else is looked after that you forget to look after yourself?
Do you often forget to eat, or eat meals that are quick and easy, but lack nutrition?
As mums, we tend to put everyone else’s needs and nutrition in front of our own. We spend so much time cutting, peeling, chopping, baking and cooking to ensure our kids eat a variety of healthy foods. But then we tend to grab whatever is quickest and easiest for ourselves, even if it isn’t always the best choice!
Whether you have little ones at home or school age children, work part time, full time or stay at home, taking care of yourself is important too. We need proper nutrition to maintain energy levels and stay healthy while running after little people!
Planning your lunch and snacks is an important aspect of healthy eating – the more you plan, the more likely you are to make healthier choices.
I have put together some tips to help you fit delicious and healthy meals and snacks into your day, so that you can look after your own needs, as well as your children’s needs.
1. Plan ahead
Eating healthy foods can be challenging at times. One thing that makes it easier is planning your meals ahead of time.
Planning can help you organise your lunches and snacks, meaning you can have tasty and nutritious meals and snacks readily available with minimal effort.
Plan what you want to eat for lunches and snacks when you prepare your weekly meal plan and include the ingredients in your weekly shop. Having lunch and snack ingredients on hand will not only remove stress from your busy day, it will also save you money and ensure that you avoid impulse eating when you get over-hungry!
Here are some quick and easy lunch suggestions for you and your children:
- Ham, cheese, tomato paste
- Grilled cheese and tomato
- Chicken breast, cheese and pesto
- Capsicum, tomato, olives and cheese
- Tuna, cheese and avocado
- Baked beans.
- Salads – chop some extra salad ingredients when you prepare dinner and keep them in an airtight container or mason jar in the fridge. The vegetables will last a few days and can be thrown together in no time. Toss through a little oil or lemon juice when ready to eat.
- Poached eggs on toast
- Overnight oats with berries
- Wholemeal pita or tortilla wraps with salad
- Mexican chicken burrito bowls
- Soups (try this pumpkin soup)
- Quiche or vegetable frittata
- Chopped veggies with hummus
- Crackers with toppings:
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese
- Cheese and tomato
- Nut spread
- Hummus and veggies
- Avocado and Vegemite
- Fruit salad with yoghurt and granola
- Rice and tuna
- Scrambled eggs or omelettes – add as many healthy ingredients as you like (mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, ham, cheese, spring onions) and serve on a piece of toast. Finely grate or chop those veggies if you need them to be less obvious!
2. Pack your lunch the night before
Days can get chaotic. If you don’t have something prepared and ready to go, it’s easy to neglect nutrition in favour of convenience. If you are making school lunches the night before, pack yourself and your little person a lunchbox too! It doesn’t take much more effort to add another one or two. My 3 year old loves to get his “school lunch” out of the fridge during the day. I add sandwiches, salads, eggs, fruit, yoghurt, homemade muesli bars, healthy bliss balls or slices.
Having lunch prepared gives you more time during the day and also ensures that you have healthy foods on hand if life gets busy!
3. The freezer is your friend
Keep your freezer stocked with a range of freezer friendly snacks and lunches that you can grab and go. And if you have school aged kids, this also ensures that you will have a supply of convenient ready to go school snacks, which will save you so much time! Just throw some snacks into a lunch box and they will thaw by snack time.
I spend some time over the school holidays bulk-baking a range of freezer friendly snacks that last my family for the following school term. Look for a range of healthy recipes where you can sneak in some hidden veggies that both you and your kids will love.
Some snacks and lunches that can be stored in the freezer:
- Healthy muffins (sweet or savoury)
- Pita pizza
- Healthy bliss balls (try these Nut free choc mint bliss balls)
- Home made muesli bars
- Quiche or zucchini slice
- Leftover dinners
- Healthy sausage rolls (with added finely grated veggies)
- Fried rice
- Frozen dinners and individual steamed vegetable packs
4. Eat the same foods as your little ones
At home, I would always make my little ones a beautiful, healthy lunch and then wonder what to make for myself!
If you are chopping veggies, making eggs, sandwiches, fruit or a tasting plate for your child, cut some extra for yourself too and then add a more grown up twist like seasoning, dressing or sauces. Add some nuts or crunchy granola to fruit and yoghurt, add some dressing, lemon or meat to salads, or sprinkle your favourite spices over meals.
5. Double your dinner recipes
When making dinner, double the recipe and then portion the leftovers into individual serves. Store them in the fridge or freezer to eat at home or take to work. And don’t throw anything out! Think of ways you can repurpose leftover meats, veggies and grains into your lunch. For example, leftover savoury mince or meats can be used to make a delicious toastie or pasta. Leftover veggies can be added to an omelette or mini frittatas. Leftover rice and pasta can be used in soups or salads.
6. Prepare foods you can eat on the go
Foods that can be easily hand held and eaten on the go (or even packed into a lunchbox) are so convenient for busy mums.
Prepare things like sliced fruit and vegetables, dips, crackers, pita pizzas, grilled cheese toast and wraps that can be picked up and eaten on the run, if necessary.
A smoothie is a great healthy and portable option when you are short on time. As well as containing a tonne of nutritious foods, the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and they can be eaten on the go – whether you are at home or out and about. Add your favourite fruits and veggies (berries, carrot, spinach, banana) to a liquid of your choice (coconut water, almond milk, water, milk) and blend together with some protein powder for a nutritious, portable lunch.
As an added bonus, if you have a fussy eater who doesn’t like veggies, smoothies are a great way to give them a big serve of vegetables in a special drink that they will love. They won’t be able to taste the added fresh spinach leaves or other veggies when they are blended with the fruit. Chia seeds and green powder also work well.
If I’m making a smoothie for myself, my little one always grabs a cup and asks for some too!
7. Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with handy, nutritious staples
When you don’t have anything prepared and need something in a hurry, pantry staples to the rescue! Keep your pantry and fridge stocked with easy, nutritious ingredients (canned tuna or salmon, couscous, ready-made minute rice, nuts, crackers, soups, beans, frozen vegetable steam packs) that can make a quick, healthy and budget friendly lunch or snack in no time.
Beans can be eaten in scrambled eggs, soups, stirred through rice or salads. Tuna can be added to sandwiches, crackers, rice or salad. Pre-cooked rice packs can be ready in less than two minutes and can be used in so many different ways. Pantry staples also come in handy to feed little ones when you need something quick and easy.
8. Always have healthy snacks available
Have healthy snacks readily available and snack when you need to. Choose snacks like fruit, raw veggies, hummus, raw bliss balls, healthy home made muesli bars, healthy muffins, popcorn, veggie chips, dried fruit, nuts, yoghurt or smoothies.
Boost the nutritional content of your healthy muffins by adding some finely grated carrots or zucchini, or a little frozen or canned corn kernels.
If you are leaving home, make sure you take a water bottle with you and stay hydrated! Keep a container of nuts or dried fruit in your car to snack on if you get hungry.
As busy mums, we need to make ourselves and our health a priority too. Ensuring you eat a well balanced diet will give you more energy and will assist with physical and emotional health, as well as keeping up with busy children on minimal sleep!
Andrea is a mum to four kids (9, 5, 3 and 7 months) and a passionate home cook who loves to bring people together with food.
The Cooking Collective offers inspiration and recipes to help busy families with quick and easy weeknight dinners, healthy lunchbox inspiration, cooking with kids, healthy party ideas, decadent desserts and more.
Download Andrea’s Lunchbox Snack Guide which contains 7 healthy, no-bake, snacks which take only 5 mins to prepare! (nut free, gluten free and dairy free options included)